The Kentucky Derby is just over a week away and the field for the season's Triple Crown opener appears to be set, as Brad Cox's Caddo River has gone from possible to entered. The May 1 Run for the Roses might be a wide-open affair, with only Essential Quality able to separate himself from the pack during the prep series races.
We're continuing our look at the 2021 Kentucky Derby field, recapping the entrants' accomplishments as well as assessing their chances for success at Churchill Downs.
Medina Spirit is Bob Baffert's only hope
At one point, it looked as if legendary Hall of Fame and Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert might have four horses in the Kentucky Derby. Due to a number of factors, including an injury to Life Is Good, that number is down to a single entry, Medina Spirit.
Although he failed to win one of the big prep races, Medina Spirit finished no worse than second in four attempts, the only horse other than Essential Quality to collect points in a quartet of races. These were all at Santa Anita. In this run, he won the 10-4-2-1 Robert B. Lewis Stakes and accumulated a total of 76 Road to the Kentucky Derby points.
The biggest disappointment was his failure to live up to his even money odds favourite status in the 100-40-20-10 Santa Anita Derby as he was unable to run down winner Rock Your World, losing by over four lengths. Despite his inability to close the deal in the big races, his 2-3-0 overall record and $315,200 of earnings in five career races position him well to contend at Churchill Downs.
He was clearly outclassed by Life Is Good in the San Felipe Stakes, losing by eight lengths, but he was able to catch Dream Shake down the stretch and pull away from him at the end. The fact that Life Is Good will not be in the Kentucky Derby means Medina Spirit could be near the lead as they hit the stretch. He is currently being offered at 16/1 with William Hill.
Will inexperience be a factor for Rock Your World?
Undefeated Rock Your World, the upset winner over Medina Spirit in the Santa Anita Derby, didn't even break his maiden until his debut race on the first day of 2021 at Santa Anita. Trainer John Sadler didn't race him as a two-year-old, and the strategy appears to have paid off.
It will remain to be seen if his inexperience will have an effect on Rock Your World in a 20-horse field in the Kentucky Derby, with many bookmakers quoting odds as short as 5/1. His limited body of work could work against him as he was able to set the early pace in the Santa Anita Derby and run out in front for most of the race.
He only ran against four other horses in his previous outing in the Pasadena Stakes, coming from third place at the head of the stretch to win, going away by two-and-a-quarter lengths. He's likely to have to fight through considerably more traffic if he's going to prevail at Churchill Downs against a speedy and deep field, led by Essential Quality and others.